Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Craftsman Ch'ui

~ from Chuang Tzu, chapter 19 (Hamill & Seaton)

The craftsman Ch'ui could draw a line straight as taut string and make a circle as perfect as a compass because he let his hand change with the change of things and didn't let his heart and mind get distracted. Therefore he kept his spirit's abode unified, yet unfettered.

If the shoe fits, you forget your feet. If the belt of office fits, you forget your waist. Knowing may forget right and wrong if heart and mind fit. If you don't want to be changed by what's internal or made to follow what's external, then you're fit to the task. Begin with what fits and never let it not fit, then you can forget about fitting.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Clear and True

May all beings be clear and true to their hearts.

May they not be penalized for being exactly who they are.

May they love without anger or retaliation and may it be returned in full measure.

May they accept change with ease; abide in ease and go with ease.

May love resound until not even the word for suffering is heard.

May we all be free.

~ composed by Julia King Tamang, blogger at Parenting As Spiritual Practice and teacher at Kagyu Changchub Chuling

Friday, August 26, 2011

We're All Mad Here

Alice: "But I don't want to go among mad people."

Cheshire Cat: "Oh you can't help that; we're all mad here. I'm mad, you're mad."

Alice: "How do you know I'm mad?"

Cheshire Cat: "You must be, or you wouldn't have come here."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Working with Reactive Behavior and Emotions

Unintended behaviors tend to arise when our internal stories are taken at face value. When I believe that someone is a bad person, impulses arise to defend myself, to argue, or to criticize.

When we look closely, we see how stories are attempts to manage unpleasant emotions. Our habitual stories are very convincing, but stories are just stories, and retelling them again and again just reinforces the emotions that give rise to the stories.

Aren't disturbing emotions a reaction to protect or enhance some sense of self? In the long run, engaging in reactive emotions just reinforces our suffering; they are "negative" emotions because they exacerbate suffering.

That sense of self is also a reaction -- a contraction that tries to dispel the confusion of not knowing how things actually are. Awareness is mistaken for a self, and perceptions are mistaken for other selves or objects. Even our own thoughts and emotions are regarded as other, objects to be grasped or opposed depending on whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. We construct a habitual way of being that becomes our "self." When we stop grasping at the sense of self, its defensive reactive emotions also stop arising.

As the stability and clarity of attention deepens, we see all this more deeply, and we can begin to bring stability and clarity into more situations. There is a progression, a capacity that grows over weeks, months, and years. Practicing at the edge of our capacity, so that we are sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding, is the optimal way to train.

In the meantime, there are some practices that are helpful.

Form clear intentions. Forming intentions aligned with our deepest values helps our behavior and thoughts tend toward what we actually intend. An example might be to not say unkind things when frustration arises. Another example might be the intention to cut self-centered stories as soon as possible, because we see that they are exacerbating the suffering. Forming a clear intention plants a seed that definitely bears fruit; following through on an intention creates the conditions for the seed to grow and the fruit to appear.

Cultivate healthy conditions. We can use our intelligence to take care in situations that overwhelm us. We have to relate to people at work, but we don't necessarily have to hang out with them at lunch or in the evening. We can't avoid meetings with difficult co-workers, but we can try to schedule them when we are relatively calm and centered. Ultimately we know that the apparent "cause" of our reactions is actually just a trigger for our own emotions, but we can take care of ourselves and others by being careful to minimize the situations that create turmoil. Alternatively, form relationships with people who share your deepest values, and create the conditions for your practice to thrive. 

Share the benefits: As the benefits of stable and clear attention take hold, we can dedicate those benefits to the welfare of all beings. We can in intention and in practice share the benefits as much as possible, even with those who are triggers for our reactions. This will deepen our capacity. It will give us a growing ability in difficult situations. And eventually it changes our relationship with challenging emotions and challenging people. 
This is often difficult to see in moments of disturbance, but when we sincerely try it, we see how it works over time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

That's All There Is

Shamatha is calming the runaway train of actions and thinking. Vipashyana is knowing that starting it up again won't be helpful. Compassion is accepting that others are in the very same situation, that confusion is confusion and pain is pain, regardless of who is feeling it. Faith is the empty opening through which calm and knowing and compassion can move and do some good. That's all there is. Anything else is an elaboration which may be helpful, in a particular situation, up to the point that faith must open.

Friday, August 19, 2011


by Sulak Sivaraksa

We have more than enough programs, organisations, parties, and strategies in the world for the alleviation of suffering and injustice. In fact, we place too much faith in the power of action, especially political action. Social activism tends to preoccupy itself with the external. Like the secular intellectuals, activists tend to see all malevolence as being caused by "them" -- the "system" -- without understanding how these negative factors also operate within ourselves. They approach global problems with the mentality of social engineering, assuming that personal virtue will result from a radical restructuring of society.

The opposite view - that radical transformation of society requires personal and spiritual change first or at least simultaneously - has been accepted by Buddhists and many other religious adherents for more than 2,500 years. Those who want to change society must understand the inner dimensions of change. It is this sense of personal transformation that religion can provide. Simply performing the outer rituals of any tradition has little value if it is not accompanied by personal transformation. Religious values are those that give voice to our spiritual depth and humanity. There are many descriptions of the religious experience, but all come back to becoming less and less selfish.

As this transformation is achieved, we also acquire a greater moral responsibility. Spiritual considerations and social change cannot be separated. Forces in our social environment, such as consumerism, with its emphasis on craving and dissatisfaction, can hinder our spiritual development. People seeking to live spiritually must be concerned with their social and physical environment. To be truly religious is not to reject society but to work for social justice and change. Religion is at the heart of social change, and social change is the essence of religion.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How Poor

If those who owe us nothing gave us nothing,
how poor we would be.

~ Antonio Porchia

Monday, August 15, 2011


The more I practice, the luckier I am.
~ Ben Hogan

Sunday, August 14, 2011


by William Blake

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Busyness and Well-Being

I often hear from people I work with that they suffer from a chronic sense of being too busy. Busyness is so common -- nearly ubiquitous in modern culture -- that it's easy to regard it as a given over which we have little influence. But whatever causes suffering is worth looking into. Busyness, perhaps not surprisingly, is complex, operating on multiple levels. Maybe we could regard outer busyness as too many activities, inner busyness as too many thoughts, and hidden busyness as too many intentions. That is, "too many" for a sense of balance and well-being.

When we do too much for too long, we are probably going to be tired, we may not think clearly, we may not eat or sleep, exercise or meditate  as well as we'd like, and we may miss opportunities to play and relate with family and friends. Busyness affects our well-being in many ways. Until we slow down a bit and some space opens up, there may not be much clarity about how to take care of what's most important. Priorities are confused, too much is taken on, and we jump onto the horse of busyness, riding off in all directions.

Everyone has their own circumstances and conditions, habits and imbalances, but regardless of the details of your version of busyness, there may be some broad arenas worth exploring. David Rock and Dan Siegel have described seven areas of life that affect our well-being. They are explained in terms of benefits to the brain and mental well-being, but they apply to the body and heart as well. Here are the seven:

Focus Time ~When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, we take on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.

Play Time ~ When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, we help make new connections in the brain.

Connecting ~ When we connect with other people, ideally in person, and when we take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, we activate and reinforce the brain's relational circuitry.

Physical Time ~ When we move our bodies, aerobically if medically possible, we strengthen the brain in many ways.

Time In ~ When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, we help to better integrate the brain.

Down Time ~ When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, we help the brain recharge.

Sleep Time ~ When we give the brain the rest it needs, we consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.

For more on Rock and Siegel's Healthy Mind Platter, click here.

Busy ones, take care with this. You could make yourself even busier by trying to engage in more or better activities in each of the seven categories. Instead, I recommend finding -- or making -- some "down time" to "tune in," at least a few minutes once or twice a day.

Sitting in a chair, or lying on the ground, feel the weight of your body resting. Feel the contact with chair or ground. Feel the weight of your body. See if you can let your weight be supported by the chair or ground. See if you can let go of holding yourself up. Let the momentum of doing and thinking slow down a little bit. See if you can, for a few moments or minutes, just rest awake in the sensations of the breathing body. When you get up, see if you can bring a little of that sense of awake resting into your activities.

Begin to let what you discover gradually seep into your body, heart, mind, and life. Planting the seeds of clarity and balance is a gentle, subtle art. The fruits will appear in time, if you plant the seeds and nurture the conditions that allow them to grow.

Happy practice!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."

~ Mary Anne Radmacher

Monday, August 8, 2011

Buddha In the Jungle (from Santidhammo)

Body-based practice and harmony with nature... 

Buddha In the Jungle

from Santidhammo Bhikkhu's blog

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Suffering Is Nothing More

[T]he root source of human suffering is [the] very split between "me" and "my experience." Suffering is nothing more than the observer judging, resisting, struggling with, and attempting to control experiences that seem painful, scary, or threatening to it. Without that struggle, difficult feelings can be experienced more simply and directly, instead of as dire threats to the survival and integrity of "me."
~ John Welwood, Toward a Psychology of Awakening, p. 101

The secret is just to say "Yes!" and jump off from here.
~ Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, Not Always So

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Empathy, Sympathy, Compassion

Empathy: knowing what another is feeling.

Sympathy: knowing and caring.

Compassion: recognizing your common humanity.

~ from an interview with Kristin Neff

Bright & Shining

To recognize the quality, significance, or magnitude of: appreciated their freedom. To be fully aware of or sensitive to; realize: I appreciate your problems. To be thankful or show gratitude for: I really appreciate your help. To esteem or value highly. To raise in value or price, especially over time.

Mid-15th century, "good will," from Middle French gratitude, Medieval Latin gratitudinem "thankfulness," Classical Latin gratus "thankful, pleasing, agreeable" (see grace).

Old English glæd "bright, shining, joyous," from Proto-Germanic glada (Old Norse glaðr "smooth, bright, glad," Danish glad "glad, joyful," Old Saxon gladmod "glad," Old Frisian gled "smooth," Dutch glad "slippery," German glatt "smooth"), from Proto-Indo-European ghel "to shine" (see glass). The modern sense is much weakened.

"Emptiness is without characteristics. Illumination has no emotional afflictions. With piercing, quietly profound radiance, it mysteriously eliminates all disgrace. Thus one can know oneself; thus the self is completed. We all have the clear, wondrously bright field from the beginning. Many lifetimes of misunderstanding come only from distrust, hindrance, and screens of confusion that we create in a scenario of isolation. With boundless wisdom journey beyond this, forgetting accomplishments. Straightforwardly abandon stratagems and take on responsibility. Having turned yourself around, accepting your situation, if you set foot on the path, spiritual energy will marvelously transport you. Contact phenomena with total sincerity, not a single atom of dust outside yourself."
~ Hung-chih Cheng-Chueh (Hongzhi Zhengjue) (1091-1157)